The race for county judge in Group 10 has been narrowed to two. After beating two other competitors in the primary Sept. 4, Assistant Public Defender Dan Perry and lawyer Frank A. Gomez are fighting to the finish for the seat vacated by Sam Pendino, who became a circuit judge.
Candidates in the non-partisan race are prohibited from taking public positions on issues, so voters must judge them on qualifications and experience.
Perry, the felony division chief in the public defender's office, has used his legal career defending the rights of the poor. He supervises a staff of 36 lawyers.
"I've been with the public defender's office for 10 years, and I've been in court for 10 years," he said.
During that time, the 35-year-old lawyer handled juvenile, misdemeanor and felony cases until he was promoted to his position.
"I feel like this experience has prepared me to be a county judge," Perry said. "I have the demeanor, compassion, fairness and decisiveness to be a county judge."
Gomez, a former prosecutor and city firefighter, has been in private practice since 1977. He specializes in personal-injury and wrongful-death cases, with some family and criminal law.
"I've handled every type of case imaginable," said Gomez, 49. "Everything from trespassing to first-degree murder to every case imaginable" in civil law.
Gomez stresses his background in public service, including his 10 years as a firefighter, and his rise from a modest background in Tampa to becoming a successful lawyer. That helps him relate well to people, he says.
"A county judge hears cases where people are often unrepresented by an attorney," he said. "You need someone who can relate to them to make decisions _ fair and decisive decisions."
_ RACHEL L. SWARNS
County judges preside over criminal traffic and misdemeanor cases and civil traffic infractions. They also handle civil suits that involve claims less than $10,000. They serve four-year terms and are paid $76,851 a year.
FRANK A. GOMEZ, 49, is a private lawyer and a part-time public defender in juvenile court. He is a former assistant state attorney and once headed a felony division. Gomez was a Tampa firefighter for 10 years after serving in the Navy. He specializes in personal-injury and wrongful-death cases, with some family and criminal law. Gomez graduated from the University of South Florida and received a law degree from Florida State University. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: Residential real estate, office building, law practice, retirement account, cash. LIABILITIES: Mortgages, loans. INCOME: Law practice.
DAN PERRY, 35, is the felony division chief for the public defender's office. He has spent 10 years defending the rights of the poor and is on the board of directors of Hillsborough County Criminal Defense Lawyers. Perry graduated from the University of Florida in 1976 and from Stetson University College of Law in 1980. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: Real estate, stocks, savings, investments, retirement account. LIABILITIES: Two mortgages, loans. INCOME: Salary.